Ray Samuels managed to create one hell of a portable amp in the RSA SR-71a.
Plugged in to the extremely revealing, legendary Apuresound recabled Etymotic ER4P, and you immediately hear a clean, uncolored amp with a killer resolution that no other portables can touch.
Plugged in to Sennheiser’s HD650, the SR-71a drove it with the most authority out of all the portable amplifiers I have tried. Impact after impact, even complex passages on Beethoven’s No.9, the SR71-a never ran out of breath.
If you’re looking for a colored sound, then look elsewhere, cause the SR-71a doesn’t add any color. If you’re looking for a small portable amp, then RSA has the P-51 Mustang or the RSA Shadow. If you want a DAC, the SR-71a doesn’t have one. If you want a rechargeable internal battery, the SR-71a doesn’t have it either. The SR-71a is a box of pure high class portable amplification and nothing less.
Before the SR-71a, Ray had the SR-71. According to RSA’s website, at one point in time the parts became unavailable for the SR-71, and so Ray had to come out with a new design which eventually will be the SR-71a. Well, parts shortage turns out to be a blessing in disguise, because otherwise we wouldn’t have the improved SR-71a with the gain selector switch and a smaller footprint than the original. Though the RSA website only stated 500pcs SR-71a will be produced, I never heard anybody actually having a problem obtaining an SR-71a. There were also talks circulating on how the original SR-71 supposed to sound better than the SR-71a. Honestly, I cannot comment on that, as I don’t have the original SR-71 to compare to.
For $450+shipping, you get one of the most awesome sound that can fit into a jeans pocket. The SR-71a also has the usual first class RSA casing with beautifully silk screened lettering. Even with the power it puts out, you still get a great battery life out of the two 9 Volts, especially more with alkaline batteries.
I really don’t have anything to complain about the SR-71a. It’s one of the best portable amps money can buy.
GOOD: Clean sound, high resolution, very powerful for a portable, great battery life, great build quality.
NO GOOD: May lack the bells and whistles of other portables such as size, DAC, crossfeed.
System for auditioning:
Headphones: Sennheiser HD650, Apuresound recabled Etymotics ER-4P
Source: Ipod Touch 2nd Gen
Amplifier: Ray Samuels SR-71a
Special thanks to Dayak for making this review possible.